Has Digital Signage “Crossed the Chasm”

Posted by on Jun 30, 2011 in DOOH

Like Lyle Bunn, I believe 2008 was the maturation year for out-of-home.  It truly did “turn the corner.” Similarly, 2009 holds as much promise for the budding industry. In his industry publication Jimmy Shaeffler remarked at the hurdles digital signage would have to go through before DOOH reached the summit, “Ten years from the publication date of this book, buys-ins, and real buy-ins, by certain industry sectors, will mean the digital signage industry has truly succeeded.” Well, it’s finally happened. MediaWeek recently reported the industry’s largest “paid buy” by Schering-Plough–$10 mil.

In addition, Bunn also indicated a number of other factors that have contributed to signage’s hurdle scaling:

  • Industry Growth.
  • Value emergence in supply models.
  • Audience metrics improvements.
  • Increase in industry information.
  • Technology spectrum has broadened.
  • Increased deployments.
  • Investors are swarming.
But has digital signage truly “crossed the chasm”? Geoffrey Moore talks about moving technologies into the mainstream markets, a vital action for companies and industries to survive. Digital signage has two issues on its hands right now: it’s barely entered the chasm, moving toward “mainstream” acceptance, and the current economic crisis. Both factors will require innovative solutions to keep your company afloat in the coming months. In determining this, we must ask ourselves a few questions:
  • Are we still an industry dominated by visionaries? Or have the pragmatists started leading? In other words, have we moved from a pioneering society, to a society of settlers?
  • Does innovation still abound?
  • Does the majority of software in the marketplace still work for the technologically incompetent? Or, does it still appeal the signage rocket scientist?
  • Often companies, when entering the chasm, have very high expectations for continued growth. As a result, they spend for growth instead of husbanding resources. Is this happening?
  • Are we valuing the technology itself or the strategic leap forward it enables? If so, how are we effectively showing this?
  • Are we still measuring what we spent or what is returned for what was spent?
  • Are we strategically targeting the pragmatists and conservatives, or are we still attempting to sell the “techies”? Remember: real techies don’t need whole products.
  • Although you focus on your niche, do you keep this mentality in mind, “We do not have, nor are we willing to adopt, any discipline that would ever require us to stop pursuing any sale at any time for any reason.”?
  • Are we sales-driven during a chasm period? If so, our actions may prove fatal.
  • Are we using “informed intuition” or “analytical reason” as our decision making tool? (Hint: in times like these, “informed intuition” is always best).
  • Are you over-designing for your target market? If so, you may be hedging your bet.
  • Do we know our competition? Remember: where there is no competition, there is no market.
  • Are you focusing on the four domains of high-tech marketing? (Technology, Product, Market, and Company)
  • Are you making half-time adjustments to your marketing game plan, or are your fine with keeping up the status quo?
  • Do you know your position? A product with an uncertain position is difficult to buy.
  • Do your target customers have YOU on their brain?
  • Are you a sponsor of a discontinuous innovation? (This has a couple meanings if you think about it).
The intro line of the novel “A Tale of Two Cities” starts with the statement, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” In the same way, the digital signage industry will see some major changes in the coming months as companies who’ve been “in our minds” will flutter into oblivion, while others still will find a way through the fray to make product and profit gains. And, like Henry Ford once said, “a business absolutely devoted to service will have only one worry about profits: they will be embarrassingly large.” Capital markets do not operate on a “zero-sum” game, unfortunately casualties will be had. Keeping some of the forgoing questions in mind may be helpful as digital signage continues it’s efforts in “Crossing the Chasm.”

I’ll end this post with a quote from Jim Goodman, CEO of Capitol Broadcasting:

“As computers get more advanced, getting into the digital signage business is going to get easier and easier. It is a great way to diversify…We already have a lot of the content, and we are familiar with the basic equipment and the key players –advertisement agencies and advertisers–it just makes a lot of sense to work in digital signage.”

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